Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
This is not exactly a review, but I'd like to describe the gameplay a little and give a few opinions. I never had any idea what the game was actually like before I rented it, so I figured it couldn't hurt to describe some things.

With the exception of the first tutorial case, each mission is divided into two kinds of gameplay, investigation and trial.

For investigations, you have a number of rooms or areas to explore, say between 5 and 15. It's in the style of other point and click games like Shadowgate where you have single screen locations without much animation that you can examine for clues or look at items of interest. Your sidekick and sometimes other people in the area will then comment on what you've found, and if it's something relevant, it will be added to your inventory. I enjoyed examining every possible thing to hear all the possible comments... and you pretty much have to anyway, since you never know when something will turn out to be relevant to the case.

You can speak to any people you encounter in these locations about a variety of topics. In order to open up new dialogue options and advance the game, it's usually necessary to use the present evidence option to show people any items or evidence you have on hand or have found during the examinations. These sections of the game are pretty relaxing, kind of putting me in the frame of mind of reading a novel. You can't really do anything wrong, it's all trial and error. Most of the stories are very good, even if the crimes usually turn out to be impossibly convoluted when all is said and done. There are a ton of really memorable characters that you'll be spending a lot of time with in each case. I was also fond of the character designs and animations, limited though the animations were. Most characters won't be heard from again after a case is solved, but some make cameos, and some, like detective Gumshoe are seen throughout the game (fortunately!). I hope a lot of them make return appearances in the sequel.

I found it enjoyable to try presenting even irrelevant items to people see if a reaction was programmed in. Whoever wrote the dialogue had a good sense of humor, but there's a serious side that holds your interest. The investigations reminded me a little bit of playing Trace Memory. One annoyance is that it's possible to be stuck at a dead end because you forgot to present some obscure item to someone or forgot to talk to them about a particular subject. Without everything being properly triggered, you won't be able to get to some areas, or certain people won't appear, so you have to be pretty meticulous. When you're in court, gameplay takes on a very intense feel, since the stakes feel pretty high and you can actually get a game over. It mainly consists of listening to witness testimony, pressing the witness for more info about pretty much everything they say, and then using your evidence to point out contradictions in what they've said. They then usually change their testimony after you've pointed out that they were lying or forgot something. Then you basically repeat until you prove that your client couldn't have done it. Things often take a turn for the bizarre (a good thing). These sections are not without humor, with the over the top characters you have testifying and the judge who's always saying something ridiculous.

If you present the wrong piece of evidence or otherwise screw up, you get a penalty... enough of these and you lose the case and must start from the beginning of the trial day. Occasionally, you get to do more interesting things like point out inconsistencies with photographic or video evidence, explain how the crime was commited by pointing out areas on a floor plan or map, etc. Trials are generally pretty exciting and full of twists and good dialogue. Much of this is easy stuff, but there are some bits of each case that are pretty clever and require some thought to figure out. You can often get a good idea what the right evidence to present is just by gut feeling even if you aren't completely sure how it's relevant.

The game was originally designed with four cases, but the DS release included a new fifth investigation that makes use of DS functionality to a greater extent (though this does not make the game more enjoyable in any sense). This case is quite playable with a much more complicated series of events, though not quite up to the standards of the earlier scenarios in terms of overall fun factor.

One major problem is that the story was already wrapped up pretty neatly, so it's awkward to suddenly jump into this incredibly long investigation and trial after you feel satisfied that things are resolved and have even seen the credits. I'm also concerned that everything that happened in this extra case is going to be considered to have not happened when I play Phoenix Wright: Justice For All.

But I'd absolutely recommend this game if the gameplay I've described sounds like something you might be into.